Seas At Risk and the Fisheries Secretariat sent their recommendations for the upcoming bi-annual Council decision for deep-sea species. The organisations ask fisheries ministers to adopt precautious fishing opportunities in line with scientific advice and the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy to complement the recently agreed deep-sea access regime in the protection of the deep sea.
In particular, Seas At Risk and the Fisheries Secretariat urged Ministers to prohibit fisheries for - and transhipment of orange roughy, a species that has been subject to a “boom and bust” fishery in earlier decades, to maximise efforts on the recovery of the species. Ministers are asked to ensure any catches of orange roughy are landed and reported, but not sold for any purpose. The two NGOs also called on ministers not to allow directed fisheries for roundnose grenadier off Ireland and Scotland as the species has been classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature in its first ever European Red List of Marine Fishes, published in 2015. Additionally, recommandations to Ministers include not to allow bottom trawling for black scabbard fish in that same area, to protect roundnose grenadier from being accidentally caught.
The Common Fisheries Policy sets out to achieve a maximum sustainable long-term yield, which will be a particular challenge with deep-sea species. They generally grow slowly and mature late (in some cases after 30 years), which makes them particularly vulnerable to overfishing, especially when there is limited knowledge on the status of the stock and biology of the species, as is the case for most deep sea species. Moreover, in deep-sea fisheries, and particularly bottom trawl fisheries, bycatch levels are high and catches contain a wide range of species, resulting in significant impacts on these non-target species and on the wider vulnerable deep-sea environment.
In previous decisions on fishing limits for deep sea species, fisheries Ministers agreed to set quotas above the levels recommended by scientists, in particular for the spices of alfonsinos, red seabream, black scabbardfish and roundnose grenadier. By doing this, Ministers ignored their commitments to stop overfishing and follow scientific advice, which are part of the Common Fisheries Policy. Whether Ministers do better this year, will become clear on 13th and 14th November, when the Council will convene.